By Jennifer Birdwell
LISD Director of Communications
Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent E. Hawkins, Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish and Lieutenant Marty Drake gave a presentation on school safety and security during a recent meeting of the Livingston Lions Club.
“It takes a team of everyone working together to keep school safe. If there is one thing, we know that is crucial, it is being proactive with information obtained from various sources is the best line of defense,” Hawkins said.
He introduced LISD Director of Student Services Lana Smith who works to ensure the district complies with laws and regulations and keeps the plans clear so that everyone is on the same page and LISD Director of Technology Kip Robins who rejoined the LISD staff after serving as Santa Fe ISD’s director of technology, upgrading the technology and security equipment there in 2018.
“Kip has a tremendous vision in preparing the district for safety because of his experience in working with one of the nation’s most high-profile cases as a school district in the aftermath of a school shooting there,” Hawkins said. “School safety is not important unless you’re willing to fund it like electricity, facilities, and employee salaries. It is like the old saying, your heart is what you treasure. School security is a cost of doing business in the world we live in. If we aren’t willing to fund safety, then it is just empty words. Throw all the political rhetoric you want, but we need to see the action of funding from the state if we want to see change.
“We do not take anything as a joke. It takes everyone working together to prevent an incident,” Hawkins said regarding threat assessment. “Each and every report is investigated by both school and our local law enforcement. We do have a system of monitoring social media for threats. We actively and vigilantly root out threats in our district. We have a threat assessment team on each campus and at the district level. The district safety and security team reviews our responses as well as plans plus aggressively seeks out grants.
“We train our students and staff on crisis response, including active shooter and fire drills. Our educators and all staff are also part of the drills. If there is a threat on campus, full lockdown mode can be achieved across the district very expeditiously. We also provide social and emotional learning or character education at every campus. As a preventive measure, our board has put enough money in the budget to place a school-based officer on every campus. I’m proud of our board of trustees that make tough decisions, operating in the greatest educator job shortage in history and being able to not only fund but continue to expand these positions is evidence of their commitment to safety,” Hawkins said.
Drake said he started with LPD in 2001 and was stationed at the Livingston Junior High campus.
“Safety has always been at the forefront of school plans. Crimestoppers was a big help on the junior high campus. As a board member, it’s important to me to have an officer on every campus, and every threat is taken seriously and investigated until the lead or rumor is identified. We run the rumors down no matter what it is. We have to know kids are safe in school. Our emergency preparedness plan is countywide. If an incident happens in the county, every officer knows where they need to report it and their role in the emergency.” Drake said.
“The governor is talking about advanced alert training. All Livingston officers have school training in the case of an active shooter. You will be hearing a lot more about alert training. Every officer in LPD is mandated to complete this training. Our officers are also covering the Angelina College Polk County Campus. Our high school students attend this campus to take their dual credit college classes during the school day,” Drake said.
Chief Parrish said any new officers hired will be trained with the school-based officers to have the opportunity to better learn the layout of the campuses more extensively.
“This gives officers more time to become acquainted with the teaching staff and will allow better communication between the partners of the LPD and the school district. We continue to make improvements in protecting our schools” Parrish said.
“We feel we have the best relationship and can offer the best coverage by working with LPD and it gives us a strong overlap of security. Keeping kids safe is paramount in our mission. I know some districts have their own police department, but we are in the education business and they are law enforcement experts. We feel the current structure allows for better communication in crisis situations,” Hawkins said.
“It is so important to communicate between the entities,” Parrish said. “We feel fortunate to have such a strong relationship with the Livingston School District for years and continue to build on the trust.”
School officer salaries are funded by the school district and the city furnishes uniforms and vehicles.
When asked about teachers carrying guns on campus, Hawkins said, “As an educator, teachers have enough on their plate. There are more educators leaving the profession and retiring because they are tired of one more thing. Teachers need their jobs made easier as they have just gone through two years of a pandemic which was difficult to navigate with the additional regulations and limited student interaction. We need our teachers to be experts in curriculum and pedagogy not how to utilize an AR rifle. If the folks that make the laws would just let folks do what they do best, we could make great strides in our mission. That’s why we fund our law enforcement partners.”